Classics and Ancient Religion

The University of Chicago offers extraordinary resources for Classics graduate students interested in studying and doing original research in ancient religions, mythologies and rituals. 


Four Classics faculty have expertise and research projects in Greek and Roman religion:

  • Clifford Ando is the author of The Matter of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire (2008) and is the editor of Roman Religion (2003) and co-editor, with Jörg Rüpke, of Religion and Law in Classical and Christian Rome (2006).
  • Christopher Faraone has published widely on Greek religion and magic, most recently Ancient Greek Love Magic (1999), is co-editor (with D. Dodd) of Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives: New Critical Perspectives (2003) and is currently at work on two book-projects, "Incantation as Song Genre in Archaic Greece", and "Text, Image and Medium in Ancient Greek Amulets."
  • James Redfield is the author of The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy (2003), a book that is deeply concerned with the religion and culture of ancient Locri.
  • David Martinez is author of P. Michigan XVI: A Greek Love Charm from Egypt (1991) and Baptized for Our Sakes: A Leather Trisagion from Egypt (2000).

Associated faculty in other departments include:

  • Bruce Lincoln, professor of History of Religions who has published widely on Persian, Greek, Roman and Nordic religions and mythologies, most recently Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship (2000) and Religion, Empire, and Torture: The Case of Achaemenian Persia (2007).
  • Jas' Elsner, visiting professor in Art History, is author of "Sacrifice and Narrative in the Arch of the Argentarii in Rome" Journal of Roman Archaeology 18 (2005) 83-98 and is co-editor (with I. Rutherford) of, Pilgrimage in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods, Oxford (2005).
  • The Department of Near Eastern Languages and the Oriental Institute house many scholars working on ancient religion, most notably Robert Ritner (Egyptian), Dennis Pardee (Northwest Semitic, especially Ugaritic), Walter Farber (Akkadian), Andrea Seri (Akkadian), and Chris Woods (Sumerian).
  • Margaret Mitchell and Hans-Josef Klauck, of the Divinity School both have a deep understanding of Greco-Roman Religions. Jeffrey Stackert, also of the Divinity School, contributes expertise in the Hebrew Bible and its context.

The University of Chicago supports collaborative research among its faculty and students and between them and others in the US and abroad through the Center for the Study of Ancient Religions.


Lecture courses (200/300) have in the past included introductory surveys on "Ancient Egyptian Religion," "Ancient Mesopotamian Religions," "Ancient Greek Religion," "Hellenistic Religions" and "Roman Religion," as well as more focused courses on "Dreams and Dream Interpretation," "Ancient Greek Magic," and "Ancient Greek Hymns".

Advanced team-taught seminars (400-level) are common, for example: "Homeric Hymns" (Lincoln, Faraone and Redfield); "Divination and Oracles in the Ancient World" (Faraone and Lincoln); "Greek Religion in Historical Context" (Hall and Faraone); "Dura-Europas" (Elsner and Mitchel); "Orphism" (Faraone and Martinez); and "The Religions of Greco-Roman Egypt" (Faraone, Ritner, and Martinez).

Consortia and Conferences

Established in 2002 by Derek Collins, Christopher A. Faraone, Firtz Graf, Sarah Johnston, and Richard Janko, the Midwestern Consortium on Ancient Religions organizes an annual conference that rotates between the campuses of the University of Chicago, University of Michigan and Ohio State University. Past conferences include:

  • 2002: "Religion-Philosophy-Poetry: Rethinking Early Greek Hexametrical Texts" (Chicago, November 2002)
  • 2003: "Sacred Texts in Ancient Religions" (OSU, April 2003)
  • 2004: "Communication with the Divine" (Michigan, March 2004)
  • 2005: "The Spirit Within: Inspiration, Possession and Disease in the Ancient Mediterranean Basin" (Chicago, March 2005)
  • 2006: "The Orphic Gold Tablets" (OSU, March 2006)
  • 2007: "The Soul in Ancient Thought and Cult" (Michigan, March 2007)
  • 2008: "The Centrality of Animal Sacrifice in Ancient Greek Religion: Ancient Reality or Modern Construct?" (Chicago, April 2008)
  • 2011: "Imagined Beginnings: The Poetics and Politics of Cosmogony, Theogony and Anthropogony in the Ancient World" (Chicago, April 8-10, 2011)

The Chicago-Paris Working Group on Ancient Religions was co-founded in 2007 by Claude Calame, Christopher Faraone and Bruce Lincoln and is designed to create and strengthen contacts between scholars working on ancient religions. The Group consists of the University of Chicago and most of the universities and research institutions in Paris and it hosts a conference each year in September. Past conferences include:

  • 2007: “Setting the Agenda for the Chicago-Paris Working Group” (Chicago Paris Centre, September 14, 2007).
  • 2008: “Rendre visible l’invisible: pratiques religieuses de la representation” (Centre Louis Gernet, September 12, 2008).
  • 2009: “Theorizing Deity in the Plural: Pantheons and the Question of System” (Chicago Paris Centre, September 12–13, 2009).
  • 2010: “Les dieux au miroir du collectif” (Paris, September 20–21, 2010).